10 years ago today on a cold October night with the wind howling and the leaves rustling, I started a yearly ritual: a month-long blog series about my favourite horror movies. I came up with the not-too-original title “31 Days of Horror” and plunged into the task like a maniac’s knife into weak flesh. I’ve continued every year since.
Every year’s 31 Days Of Horror has a theme: I’ve covered thrillers, monster movies, horror movies from around the world, b-movies, Hammer horrors, spooky space horrors and Canadian horror movies, to name a few (well, seven) series.
Since this is my 10th year, I’m commemorating the decade with my absolute, all-time favourite horror films. To start things off I’m going back to the beginning with the first horror movie I wrote about. Mad Love was released in 1935, and it’s notable because it marked Peter Lorre’s American debut.
Based on Maurice Renard’s story The Hands of Orlac, Mad Love stars Lorre as the brilliant Paris surgeon Dr. Gogol, who’s obsessed with actress Yvonne Orlac (Frances Drake). Yvonne performs in a Grand Guignol-like production called Théâtre des Horreurs, but she’s leaving because her husband, the brilliant pianist Stephen Orlac (Colin Clive), is moving to London. Gogol is distraught and steals a wax statue of her to keep for himself.
Then Orlac is in a train wreck that damages his hands beyond repair. Or does it? A desperate Yvonne goes to Dr. Gogol, who agrees to help. Gogol transplants the conveniently available hands of the recently executed killer Rollo the Knife thrower (Edward Brophy) onto Orloc.
You can guess where this is going. Stephen can’t play the piano with his new hands but hey, he’s quite adept at throwing knives now. As Gogol becomes more obsessed with Yvonne and Stephen questions his own sanity, Mad Love races toward a deadly conclusion.
Directed by legendary cinematographer Karl Freund—he also directed The Mummy in 1932—Mad Love is an excellent and moody thriller, and Lorre is brilliant as the mad, love-obsessed doctor. It’s no surprise he went on to have a legendary career.